It was certainly a different time and a time of great change for me. The transition from High School to College was much more dramatic than I had anticipated. I went to a strict, all-male Catholic High School in the Bronx: Cardinal Hays HS. I wrote about some experiences there in an earlier entry entitled, Cardinal Hays HS. I can never be accused of not being creative, eh?
The School was one big rule book and not following the rules led to all kinds of unpleasant consequences. That’s the way it was in Catholic Schools back then. There was a dress code, a behavior code, a speech code, a hair cut code, an honor code, and truancy code. All were taken seriously, with the expected exception of high school age boys trying to “push the envelope” as often as they could. That never ended well.
Then the transition to University. Fordham University, also located in the Bronx. Rob and I went to the same University though our paths didn’t cross because of our six-year age difference. Please understand that this was University in the late ’60s and early 70’s. A time of vast cultural changes in our country. I’m not judging the changes as good or bad, but they were significant. The Vietnam War was in full swing, creating a wide range of emotions and opinions. Campus’ were lit up with demonstrations, both for and against our involvement. Music had just completed what was perhaps its most significant decade in history and “codes” such as I experienced in HS were rare, especially at University level. Fordham was no different. While being a Jesuit University with a pre-Seminary program, change was in the air. The Anti-War protestors were loud, but so were the ROTC cadets, many of whom were destined to serve in Vietnam. These factors all contributed to the transition challenges I was facing. I was accustomed to strict rules and regulations, with severe consequences if they were not followed. I expected my teachers to be Priests or Christian Brothers, clean shaven and in their white collars and black robes. I walked into a very different world. There were no codes, so to speak. One dressed as they pleased. You were informed when and where your classes would be held and you showed up if you wanted to. If you didn’t show up there was no detention or disciplinary action. As long as you passed your exams, no one monitored much of what you did. Gone where the white colors and robes. They were replaced by professors with turtle neck shirts and corduroy jackets, in jeans. There were female professors in short skirts and tight sweaters. Of course, I was basically afraid to look too hard, expecting Father McCormick to come behind me and slap me in the head.
And then there was smoking. While smoking was very common in the day, my HS had strict regulations about where it could take place. Definitely no smoking in the School (except for the Priests and Brothers, many of whom smoked like chimneys). If you wished to smoke, you had to do it outside of a three-block radius of the school. Any “lighting-up” within that DMZ would result in a week’s detention and confiscation of one’s cigarettes.
So, imagine my shock when on my first day of University, in my English lit class, walks in this guy with a full beard, wearing jeans, turtleneck, and corduroy sports jacket. He walks confidently to the front of the room and introduces himself as Professor Johnson. Wait, what? This is the professor? He’s not even wearing a tie!! I had to wear a tie to high school! What? this is my teacher? He is very pleasant and introduces us to the books we will be required to purchase at the book store. Then, he reaches into his inside jacket pocket, pulls out a pack of Lucky’s and lights up! What the hell? In the classroom! My shock increased moments later, when over half the class, both guys and girls, pull out their cigs and light up. I thought for a moment I must have found myself in an episode of the Twilight Zone. Cigs everywhere with a low ceiling of smoke hanging over the classroom. I couldn’t believe it, but found myself kinda’ liking it! How cool was this? Over half the class smoking in the classroom and no one being dragged out by their collar to detention!
It continued. A student sitting directly in front of me pulls out a nicely crafted pipe, fills it with tobacco and lights up. This contributed greatly to my love of pipe smoking. I’ll never forget the aroma of that tobacco! It was wonderful. I remember asking him after class what he was smoking and he said “ Borkum Riff.” Naturally, my next move was to find a pipe store, get myself a cool pipe and a package of Borkum Riff and SMOKE IN THE CLASSROOM tomorrow!!!… and that’s exactly what I did.
Naturally, it didn’t go quite as planned as I couldn’t get the damned thing lit, being a total novice pipe smoker. I must have looked like an idiot puffing and then blowing out the flame that I had almost started. Nevertheless, I was smoking in the CLASSROOM.!! I made certain I bought one of those curved pipes so I could feel like I was Lee Van Cleef in the” Good, The Bad and The Ugly”…… but, that’s another story.
It didn’t end there…. My professor made those Lucky’s look so good, that I had to get a pack of those. Now I was really cool. Smoking Lucky Strikes, in the classroom, just like my Professor. I look back and wonder how any of us was even able to see him through all the smoke in the room. I can only imagine how our clothes smelled…. But, back then, I guess we didn’t notice.
On the way home from classes one day, my pipe smoking inspiration (I can’t remember his name) asked me if I was going to the Beer Bash that night.
Wait, Beer Bash? Where?
In the student lounge….
Uh, Um, you mean we can drink beer, here…. On campus? What world is this?
That will be another post.
Suffice it to say, my experience at University was slightly different than my HS years.
I was smoking in the classroom……. And no one even noticed. I didn’t wide up in Detention for the rest of my natural life.
……… now, on to that Beer Bash.